Book Group

Monday, June 12th, 5:30pm

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman and his wife were looking for a house outside New York City, they found a New Canaan, CT estate that had been marked down from $35 million to $24 million and had been unoccupied since it was purchased in 1951.  Now, more interested in the story, Dedman discovered that the owner was not dead, and had two other immense dwellings that she also had never lived in.  One was an estate located in Santa Barbara, Calif, and the other was three apartments totaling over 40 rooms on Fifth Avenue.  This mystery led to Dedman writing Empty Mansions.
At the heart of this mystery was a reclusive heiress, Huguette Clark, who had lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room and not visited any of her homes.  Dedman discovered that Huguette was the daughter of copper industrialist, senator, railroad builder and founder of Las Vegas, W.A. Clark, whose family spanned three generations of American history from a log cabin in Pennsylvania, to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, to backdoor politics in Washington.  She grew up in the largest house in New York City, owed paintings by Degas and Renoir, a Stradivarius violin, and a vast collection of antique dolls.
Dedman collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, who did have conversations with her, to attempt to answer many questions.  Why had Huguette lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health?  Why were her valuables being sold off?  Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle.